Skirts STILL (dresses) Not Required

June 30, 2023 by


In June 2022, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision struck down a North Carolina charter school’s dress code requirement that female students wear skirts, skorts, or jumpers. This week, the Supreme Court let that decision stand.

In Peltier v. Charter Day School Inc., the Fourth Circuit determined that the charter school, which receives 95% of its funding from federal, state, and local governments, is a state actor and thereby subject to the Constitution. The panel concluded that the gender-specific dress code violated the Equal Protection Clause and may violate Title IV of the Education Amendments of 1972.

The school founder defended the skirt requirement as forwarding traditional values, chivalry, and respect. “Chivalry, the school founder said, is a code of conduct in which women are ‘regarded as a fragile vessel that men are supposed to take care of and honor.’”

Senior Judge Barbara Milano Keenan authored the majority opinion as well as a separate opinion, joined by another judge, addressing the school’s argument that because the girls at the school “succeed,” the skirt requirement is harmless and has no effect on the students. Judge Keenan wrote, “It is irrelevant how well these students performed despite careering the burden of unequal treatment. We cannot excuse discrimination because its victims are resilient enough to persist in the face of such unequal treatment.”

After a loss at the Fourth Circuit, the charter school appealed to the Supreme Court but the Court announced this week that it declined to hear the appeal. The lower court’s decision and now the Supreme Court’s allowance of the decision to stand is a significant development of the law as it recognized the harms of gender stereotypes; its impact will likely go beyond antiquated school dress codes. It is insulting to assume that females must wear skirts in order to receive the courtesy and respect that all individuals deserve. The decision to wear a skirt or pants is a personal choice and one that should not be dictated. Young girls should be taught that their agency and strength is not tied to a skirt, dress, or pants, rather it comes from within. Remember, it was never a dress.


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Heather FullerAttorney

Heather Fuller, a seasoned litigator with extensive federal experience, has handled cases in courts across the United States.  Her innovative approach to each case, coupled with her sound judgment and ability to solve complex problems, makes her a strong advocate for her client.

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